Retiring ‘Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin’

This is part of Justin Lee’s “Sanity” syncroblog in celebration of his new book, Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christians Debate.

When Justin Lee came through town earlier this year, one big part of his presentation was the need for people to better understand the definitions of the terms they use. If people on different sides of an issue use the same terms but imbue them with different meaning, it’s difficult to really have a conversation.

We see this in politics. When someone says “fiscal cliff” or “tax reform” or “increased revenue,” those terms mean something different depending on their party affiliation – and that definition might be different from the one assumed by reporters, voters and other, more impartial observers.

We really see this in sexuality. The topic is so personal – and so poorly discussed – that we have lots of room to internalize our experiences and apply definitions that may or may not be the same as anybody else’s. Then when we bring those experiences and terms into public discussion, we assume we’re all working with the same definition. But we’re not, and we end up talking past each other.

One frequently used phrase that needs better definition is “love the sinner, hate the sin.” Continue reading Retiring ‘Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin’

Justice for All

Last night was fun. For those of us who voted, donated or volunteered to re-elect President Obama, it was thrilling. It was rewarding. But it was so much more.

Because the way we vote determines our values as a society. And in 2012, our society chose compassion.

We chose health insurance for those who cannot afford it. We chose a softer approach to those seeking a better life within our borders. We chose – at least I hope we did – to begin healing our suffering planet. We chose the candidate who promised to protect the people who didn’t have a seat at the table of power, whose voices struggle to rise above the lobbyists, special interests and money that have flooded our political system.

Almost as important as what we chose is what we rejected.

Continue reading Justice for All

Why this Christian Will Vote for Barack Obama (Part 2)

Some moments you just remember.

2000 was one of those. I sat in a chair in my college dorm room, filling out an absentee ballot to vote in my first presidential election. A milestone. I’ll never forget it, even if I ultimately have come to regret my choice in that particular race.

2008 was another. I stood in the voting booth, and I paused. I knew whom I would choose. I’d followed the race closely, and I could feel a palpable weight of historic significance. I paused to take in the moment – the electronic square colored blue, next to the name of an African-American candidate. I was proud that day to have voted for Barack Hussein Obama. I still am.

Why did I vote for Obama in 2008? I’d be lying if I pretended emotion didn’t enter into it. Obama was an inspirational candidate, whose words had moved me to tears multiple times that campaign. I was one of many reporters who had covered the Democratic National Convention for the Rocky Mountain News that year, and a highlight was sitting in a Hard Rock Cafe with two colleagues, watching Obama make history by becoming the first black man to accept a major party’s nomination for president. It gave me goosebumps to be there, in the same city, at the same event. I can’t pretend that moment was not formative.

Of course, the policies were important, too. Obama promised a more just society, one in which we did not launch preemptive wars; did not torture suspected criminals, no matter how egregious the alleged crimes; and provided affordable health care to all, among other proposals. In short, although I would not have phrased it this way at the time, I believed Barack Obama would make this a better, more compassionate place to live.

So here we are, four years later. Much has changed in that time.

Continue reading Why this Christian Will Vote for Barack Obama (Part 2)

Chick-fil-A’s True Colors

This news hasn’t made quite as big a splash as the original controversy, but I’d argue it’s more important:

Chick-fil-A will no longer donate money to anti-gay groups or discuss hot-button political issues after an executive’s controversial comments this summer landed the fast-food chain in the middle of the gay marriage debate.

Executives agreed in recent meetings to stop funding groups opposed to same-sex unions, including Focus on the Family and the National Organization for Marriage, according to Chicago Alderman Proco Joe Moreno.

The restaurant itself isn’t commenting, so all we have are the words of some gay-rights individuals and organizations who say they are “encouraged” by their discussions with Chick-fil-A, but the consensus seems to be that the company’s Winshape Foundation will no longer give to groups – like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council – that have said hateful things about LGBT women and men.

Continue reading Chick-fil-A’s True Colors

God Is Love; Love Is God

How do we make homosexuality an agree-to-disagree issue in our churches?

By affirming two points, one less controversial than the other:

  1. There is a significant biological component to same-sex attraction.
  2. Same-sex love, therefore, is natural.

On the first point, no one would say biology or genetics fully explains sexual orientation; the causes are numerous and complex. However, studies have shown a significant number of physical differences between straight and gay men and women, and scientists largely agree biology is a major player in whether someone is gay. Or we could simply make it more basic and ask this: When did you decide you were straight? If your answer is, “I didn’t,” then congratulations; you’ve affirmed a significant biological component to sexual orientation.

The second flows naturally from the first. If same-sex attraction is natural, then same-sex love must be, as well. And if same-sex love is natural, then we should reassess how firmly we hold to our convictions about same-sex intimacy.

Continue reading God Is Love; Love Is God

One Year and Counting

Today is the first day of class, which means I’ve now been in grad school for a full year. I have no idea how that happened.

It also means I’ve been blogging for more than a year – I started this thing in late July 2011, and here I am, somehow still trucking along. In celebration, here are the top 10 posts by pageviews this blog has had since its inception. If you’re newish, maybe you’ll find something you like; if you’ve been here from the beginning, thanks! Maybe you’ll find something you missed or forgot you liked. Or maybe the fact that these posts are the most viewed here will make you once again wonder why you’ve wasted so much time reading this blog.

Without further ado:

Continue reading One Year and Counting

Why Chick-fil-A’s Donations Are Important

Within a few minutes of each other, two Facebook friends whom I greatly respect and admire posted variations of a single theme: There are a whole lot more important things going on in the world than fighting about Chick-fil-A. One focused on the 25,000 people who die every day because they lack adequate nutrition. The other focused on a number of friends who face terrible, even hopeless, fights against cancer.

Without denigrating the significance of either of those very real, very awful problems, I cannot agree.

Now, to the extent that we’re simply fighting over Dan Cathy’s rather uninteresting views on gay marriage – news flash: southern Christian opposes gay marriage! – then I can see where they’re coming from. But Cathy’s views have shone new light on Chick-fil-A’s contributions to various groups, some of which are repulsive, and reminded us that discrimination and injustice remain very much alive and well in the United States. I don’t think we do ourselves any favors by downplaying these real concerns, no matter how serious the problems to which we compare them.

In fact, they remind me a great deal of the now-famed Jen Hatmaker post, the well-written, poorly considered call for Christians to get into the basement to ride out the latest storm in the culture wars. Except apparently Hatmaker’s basement serves Chick-fil-A, which means she completely missed the point. She writes:

If you are weary of the storm, come on downstairs. We’re going to get on with the business of loving people and battling real injustices and caring for the poor and loving Jesus. We’re going to go ahead and offer mercy to one another, even if it is viewed as “soft” or “cowardly” or “dangerous.” (Emphasis hers.)

That sounds good. Except that to thousands of gay men and women, there are real injustices going on upstairs, as well. Alise Wright put it far better than I could:

I really want this to be enough. But here’s the thing.

For a lot of people, this is a real injustice.

Somewhere up to 40% of all homeless youth identify as LGBT, and of those, almost 80% left because their families rejected them when they came out.

That’s a real injustice.

There are more than 1100 federal benefits denied to same-sex couples.

That’s a real injustice.

LGBT youth are five times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers.

That’s a real injustice.

Dan Cathy’s comments contribute to this injustice, and that is a problem – and it is an important problem. But an even bigger problem is Chick-fil-A’s monetary support for injustice, in the form of its contributions to groups that stigmatize, demean and even slander LGBT men and women.

Continue reading Why Chick-fil-A’s Donations Are Important